Last night I finished reading The Archivist by Martha Cooley. This is a novel about an older University Archivist at an Ivy League school [at Princeton, although they never really say where he works], who is in charge of a valuable collection, including revealing letters sent by T. S. Eliot to his close friend, Emily Hale. Eliot wanted Hale to destroy the letters, but instead she deposited them at Princeton under the condition that they not be opened for research until 2020. The archivist was supposed to arrange and preserve the letters by date, but he went one step further and read them all. He is then approached by a grad student who really really wants to see the letters. She also reminds him of his wife, who killed herself decades ago.
I didn’t care for the ending of this book at all – both as an archivist (he does a really unforgivable thing that basically makes you want to throw up) and as a reader (I didn’t care for the last scene between the two main characters). But what leads up to the ending is interesting and compelling. This book is about betrayal, parents, religion, mental illness, the Holocaust, poetry, isolation, and T. S. Eliot. And also archives. It is really worth reading, even if it doesn’t totally succeed in what I think it was trying to do. And the ending will probably make you mad, but isn’t that a little fun sometimes?